Chicago Export
The New Valvoline Headquarters

Today we continue our series of reports we call “Chicago Exports.”

So much of the world’s great architecture is designed right here in Chicago by Chicagoans, but it’s not built in Chicagoland so it goes unseen by the hometown crowd. That’s why we are featuring the great works produced by Chicago architects continuing the city’s proud legacy as the birthplace of the skyscraper, and a global center of architecture.

Valvoline Headquarters (Courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz)

Valvoline Headquarters (Courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz)

You don’t have to be a gearhead to know the brand Valvoline.  What you may not know is that the motor oil company is getting a new $35 million headquarters, designed by Chicago’s own Martin Wolf at Solomon Cordwell Buenz.  He gave us an early peek at the design.

Martin Wolf: You might think of this as a European model. The reason I say that is because these are actually very thin spans. Like 60 feet. And the reason for that is that we get light then from both sides. Abundant natural light. Very sustainable. You don’t need artificial light during the day. It gives people great views. It’s very open. Very lofty. And it also then creates an exterior space which is the entry courtyard. So, it’s real simple variation on a theme. It’s like you take an office building and split it in two.

Editor: Is the overhanging angle something that office people get used to easily?

Wolf: We don’t think so. What we’re doing is putting conference rooms at the ends of the building and the executive offices. And to be honest with you, that whole expression is a somewhat dynamic, but is generated a little bit by their logo, which is the V. And it’s also a V from the top.

Editor: The last time we spoke, you were working on 340 on the Park. This is the opposite of that.

Wolf: This is a groundscraper, instead of a skyscraper.

Editor: Do you enjoy one form over another?

Wolf: I think they’re all good. They’re all very interesting.

Location: 3499 Blazer Parkway, Lexington, Kentucky

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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